Many of us spent a lot of mental energy thinking about worship. We debated it, argued our position, tried to convince the others that while they may have some things right, there's still an angle they haven't quite considered, and basically just placed ourselves as close as we could get to the Almighty and accentuated the distance everyone else still had to travel. We made the point that we saw worship as so much more than music, yet we hardly ever spoke of it without alluding to songs and styles. Which, for me, is quite alright, since I can't conceive of how someone would "live a life of worship" without a song running through their heads.
And oh, how tight I used to close my eyes. It really did hurt. But it hurt so good. The pain was from trying to see something-- a light, a metallic glow, perhaps the shadow of angels wings. Others closed their eyes tighter. At first I thought about how much holier these people were than me. Later I discovered cynicism and clung to the belief that they were just pretending to feel moved.
Does anyone else remember these things? The pride we felt knowing these songs before anyone else, the way we belted out a harmony line we thought no one else knew, even the intricate clap rhythms we tried to impress each other with? (For you who didn't grow up the way we did, yes I said "clap rhythms.")
Now, though, I mostly think about stories while we are singing. Yes, stories. Stories from books, stories from movies, even stories from my previous week. (Of course it helps having someone creating music that could be the soundtrack to any number of lives.) Davy's trip through paradise in Leif Enger's Peace Like a River. The anguish expressed by Adah in saying "Help Me" when the ants came in The Poisonwood Bible. The Grey's Anatomy bomb. Smiles I remember, hugs I had, fights I fought. Standing at a grave in the freezing cold and sitting at a bar laughing my ass off. Even, many times, you. A montage of scenes from this life that is equal parts comedy and tragedy-- often both.
And we used to call them "distractions." You know what I'm talking about. "I want you to forget about the week you've just had, the trials and tribulations, the work and the study. Just forget about those distractions and focus on Jesus."
But these stories that run through my head are not distractions. They are the real deal. If Jesus moves in my life at all it is through conflict, struggle, and redemption of all the stories I've ever told, been told, or taken part in. These stories are my bright light, my metallic glow, the angel wings that take me to That Place.
So let the music begin...